Why Is a Former GOP House Leader with a Gun Like an Abusive Christian Father?

On Tuesday night, the Washington Post published a story detailing the extraordinary discord within FreedomWorks, a Washington, D.C. advocacy organization affiliated with the Republican Party.

On September 4th, former House Majority Leader, corporate lobbyist, and FreedomWorks founder Dick Armey:

… walked into the group’s Capitol Hill offices with his wife, Susan, and an aide holstering a handgun at his waist. The aim was to seize control of the group and expel Armey’s enemies: The gun-wielding assistant escorted FreedomWorks’ top two employees off the premises, while Armey suspended several others who broke down in sobs at the news.

Dick Armey

Armey’s “coup” lasted six days until a settlement was reached whereby Richard J. Stephenson, “a reclusive Illinois millionaire” and director on the FreedomWorks board, agreed to make payments of $400,000 per year to Armey in exchange for Armey’s immediate departure from the organization.

Over the course of Barack Obama‘s first term, FreedomWorks presented itself as standard bearer of the “Tea Party.” They partnered regularly with the likes of Glenn Beck and Breitbart.com, whipping up the angry passions of low-information, lower-class Christians and others who chronically mistrust the “Mainstream Media.” This gave the veneer of populist support to a political agenda designed to fortify the power and wealth of the “Business Community” and “Job Creators” responsible for underwriting FreedomWorks’ activities.

In reporting on the “Conservative Movement,” one often finds that political elites of Armey’s ilk harbor bald contempt for the God-fearing country folk whom they systematically manipulate into voting Republican. Indeed, if you are willing to outright deceive people in order to advance your own self-interest, you must not have very much respect for those people. Dick Armey and company are well-aware of Glenn Beck’s noxious lunacy, but choose to partner with him anyway because their ultimate aim is to further enrich their clients, not promote rational discourse or a healthy body politic.

I don’t know how Armey personally feels about ordinary right-wing Christian voters, but he does apparently share something broadly in common with them: a predilection to use violence to maintain “order.” By storming into that office in the middle of a workday, Armey presumably intended not just to seize control of FreedomWorks, but to inflict pain and humiliation on his enemies within the organization. Armey might justify this use of force by maintaining that the cause was just. Similarly, a Christian who spanks his daughter or beats his wife might justify that behavior on the ground that God expects submission in the household, and when the patriarch is defied, familial hierarchies break down. The Christian thus has the duty to use violence to restore order and reassert his authority by inflicting pain and humiliation.

This was the authoritarian mindset at work when Armey staged the coup. For what he might lack in direct cultural affinity with economically-despondent Bible Belt zealots, Armey makes up with his cruel, violent approach to conflict-resolution.

About michaeltracey

Journalist based in Brooklyn, New York. Follow me on Twitter at @mtracey.

  • Antinomian

    In the medieval times that these people want to take us back to, the usurping Baron would have lost his head at the very least.

  • Phil

    $400,000 a year for 20 years to “go away???!!!!” $8 million to get lost. Nice work if you can get it.


    Where do you think people like Dick Armey would line up if this was Germany in 1936?

  • Gabriel

    I’m would be surprised if this would stand up in court. From what I remember from my contract law classes this would be a contract formed under duress. I think it would be voided if it was challenged.

  • Cecelia Baines

    We are just a step away from having Brown Shirts storm across….

  • funnieguy

    Armey (pun)

  • C Peterson

    He seems to me less like an abusive father and more like the disgruntled employees who occasionally decide to go to work and shoot their bosses and fellow workers.

  • Octoberfurst

    This story doesn’t surprise me in the least. The Right is full of authoritarian types who are willing to do anything it takes to get their way. So the fact that Armey stormed Freedomworks with an aide who had a gun in his belt to kick out those disloyal to him is typical right-wing thug behavior.

  • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

    Those with an interest in authoritarian personalities may find the work of Doctor Robert Altemeyer an interesting gateway into the technical literature. He also published two studies with the late Bruce Hunsberger of particular interest to atheists: the “Amazing Conversions” study (ISBN 1573921475), which suggests some insights why people raised religiously become irreligious and vice-versa; and the “Atheists” study (ISBN 1591024137).

    Atheists might do well to note that while the research indicates one of the two types (high-RWA) is strongly associated to religiosity, the other metric (SDO) appears to be independent of it.

  • coyotenose

    Indeed, if you are willing to outright deceive people in order to
    advance your own self-interest, you must not have very much respect for
    those people.

    Perhaps it’s even sicker that they lack respect for their own opinions.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kenneth-Polit/100001819277689 Kenneth Polit

    So how long before the far right loons start actually shooting each other?

  • http://twitter.com/mtracey Michael Tracey

    It’s an interesting thought. Hard to say whether Dick Armey has this level of self-awareness, though.

  • Antinomian

    Not soon enough would be my thought, except, I think we’ve had enough violence lately. However, if they do, I hope it’s always a headshot. We don’t need any zombies…

  • http://www.everydayintheparkwithgeorge.com/ Matt Eggler

    Dick Armey, leader of and army of dicks.

  • http://v1car.wordpress.com/ The Vicar

    Oh, man, this is hilarious!

  • SteveS

    Isn’t this a felony? It sounds like armed extortion to me… If this is the way it happened, then he needs a visit from the FBI and an expedient trial.

  • Carpinions

    And this is how they claim union “thugs” conduct their business in the modern political era…

  • Carpinions

    These right-wingers are becoming increasingly unhinged in the open. And to learn that this happened 2 months BEFORE the election? Imagine what Armey would have done in this kind of furor AFTER the election results were in? He should be brought up on charges for something. You can’t just storm in with weapons visible and expect to take over, even if it’s, for example, your own company. This isn’t the late 19th century and the Industrial Revolution. But I guess Armey was just putting into practice that harrowing vigilante-fetish line that the NRA often likes to use: “A civil society is an armed society.”